‘Tom Daley effect’ spurs men to take up knitting amid home crafting boom | Knitting

Home knitting is having a moment this winter as the “Tom Daley Effect” is causing more young men and women to use knitting needles to create “slow” fashion.

Figures show that around 1 million people have taken up the hobby since the pandemic began, and the Olympic gold medalist who turned supercrafter has launched a new line of products that could encourage even more to take it up.

Since Daley was spotted knitting at the Tokyo Games, he’s become a craft influencer, whose dedicated Instagram page attracts 1.4 million followers. He is now offering a collection of high quality knitting sets for sale on the LoveCrafts website.

The kits, aimed at beginners, include a £ 90 sweater with trendy varsity stripes and a £ 125 unisex sweater with a flamingo on the front. The high price tags partly reflect the cost of thick merino wool, which is said to be “ethically sourced” in the UK.

Tom Daley with blanket
Tom Daley’s Thread the Love Blanket from his knitwear collection

In 2020, newly incarcerated Brits spent the time at home baking banana bread and sourdough. But by 2021, realizing they were in for the long run, the focus shifted to the craft as many tried to stave off burnout while working from home.

According to the UK Hand Knitting Association (UKHKA), around 1 million people have started knitting since the pandemic began. The number, based on last year’s Craft Intelligence report, means the country now has around 7 million knitters.

The sight of Daley’s medal winning without losing a stitch has encouraged more men to get involved, says UKHKA spokeswoman Juliet Bernard. A quarter of users of the website, which supports independent wool shops, are now men, she said, up from about 10% before the Olympics.

Daley’s national treasure status brought needles and wool into the 2021 John Lewis Retail Report, which identified key shopping trends.

Yarn sales rose “ridiculously” during the pandemic, said Bernard, who pointed out that people had recognized the “meditative quality” of knitting. Daley says the hobby helped him hunt medals and calls knitting his “secret weapon.”

Tom Daley knits his GB Olympic sweater as he watches the men dive at the Tokyo Olympics.
Tom Daley knits his GB Olympic sweater as he watches the men dive at the Tokyo Olympics. Photo: Marko Đurica / Reuters

During the pandemic, hobbies served as a “safety valve that offered comfort and escape” for many Britons, according to a recent report by market researcher Mintel.

However, when it comes to knitting and sewing, two in five said they were saving money, while a similar number cited environmental reasons. This DIY approach, known as “slow” fashion, is seen as an antidote to harmful high street fast fashion.

Edward Griffith, the CEO of LoveCrafts, said the company’s sales reached £ 66 million last year.

The new wave of Covid has ensured that it is “busier again,” said Griffith, who describes handicrafts as “winter sports”. In December, sales of knitting and crochet kits on the site increased 225% from 2019. While the traditional heartland of knitting was with women in their 40s or 50s, Daley attracted both younger customers and a male audience, he added.

Tom Daley with knitting models
Tom Daley’s knitting Instagram has 1.4 million followers

Not everyone will be able to wear Daley’s fashionable designs that cost as much as buying the finished item, but Bernard said they would appeal to the Zoom generation.

“You have your pajama pants on and that lovely extravagant sweater on top,” she said. “People are exhausted from what has happened in recent years. They want cocooning, but they also want some fun. ”

The Covid “pet baby boom,” which has boosted sales of animal lifestyle products, means that both dogs and humans are being showered with luxurious knitwear. The crafting site Ravelry, for example, has more than 400 different patterns for dog coats.

While children’s knitwear can be bought on the high street for less than the balls of yarn used to make them, there is an ongoing demand for patterns. “This is how people still seem to express their love,” said Bernard.

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